Iran men displayed an amazing game of tactics and control as they pulled off a 72-54 win over the Netherlands to take a historic bronze medal at the IWBF Wheelchair Basketball World Championships – Dubai 2022.
The win also gave Iran their first ever medal in a World Championships, stamping their stature at one of the best wheelchair basketball teams in the world.
Iran, the 2018 Asian Para Games champions, were led by Morteza Abedi’s double-double (19 points, 18 rebounds) while their star player Omid Hadiazhar contributed with 11 points. Dutch player Mendel Op den Orth top scored in the match with 24 points but couldn’t take his team through. Both den Orth and Hadiazhar made it to the Men’s All-Star Team.
A happy Iran head coach Mohammadreza Dastyar later said: “We analysed Netherlands’ game and planned accordingly. A night before the match, I told my boys that we need to control the game, play with mind and not with heart. It was a good win and overall great Championships with my young players including 18-year-old Abolfazl Jalaei getting great learning experiences.”
Dastyar said that the many senior players of Iran are playing in different European countries like Turkey, Spain and bringing club experience to the team. “This is helping us a lot. The senior players also guide the junior players a lot.”
“This team started training only after October 2022 and the level of game they are playing, I can say – we are ready to defend the title in Hangzhou 2022. We want to continue this momentum to Hangzhou,” added the coach looking ahead to Hangzhou 2022 Asian Para Games in October.
USA pip Great Britain
Later,United States men produced an incredible show to pip Great Britain by just one point 67-66 in a nail-biting final.
With the win, the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic champions USA also avenged their 2018 Worlds loss to Great Britain and became the world champions for the seventh time, the maximum by any team in a world championship, at a packed World Trade Centre Halls.
Down 32-43 at half-time, USA made some adjustments and returned to the match with some renewed energy and strong defence. At the third quarter, they led by one point only to maintain that lead. Meanwhile, they pressed on Great Britain offence, hardly allowed them to score. The final quarter was an even show.
Brian Bell top scored for USA with 18 points, while Trévon Jenifer and Steve Serio contributed with 16 points. Gregg Warburton’s 24 was the top score in the match but still wasn’t enough to take Great Britain through. He, however, made it to the Men’s All Stars team alongside teammate Philip Pratt.
“The best part of our team is our resilience. The ability to play our best when the game gets the hardest. We were down at half-time; we made some adjustments. Our coach did a great job of making those adjustments and putting us in a position to be successful. And, the athletes responded well,” said an elated Serio whose final campaign was laced by three 3-pointers.
Head coach Robert Taylor highlighted it was USA’s defence again that stepped up when needed. “We just tried to keep pace with Great Britain; stuck to the gameplan. Like I said before, we trust each other. Even if we were down, we believed in each other, in our style and system and we believed that we could come back at any point.”
“I’m just speechless,” said an ecstatic USA coach adding that their focus is on the Parapan American Games next.
Invincible Dutch women
Before USA men’s phenomenal show, Dutch women continued their invincible run and defended their title in style at the World Trade Centre Halls. The Paralympic champions defeated China 57-34, in a repeat of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games finals result, stamping their dominance in women’s wheelchair basketball.
The Netherlands women were off to a strong start, even came with a clinical show in the second quarters as they entered the half-time leading 31-17.
Said an emotional Mariska Beijer, who top scored for the Netherlands with 22 points, “I am very happy. First, I was excited to make it to six finals in a row –Worlds, European C’ships and Paralympic and then win the six titles in a row. This is unbelievable. We want to continue this winning momentum.
“We had a great preparation. We had a clear game plan and executed; we made the basketball drop in the basket and we won.”
“For me, personally it was quite hard to be here and to be fit as I was sick last year. It took me around 11 months to be back in action, first quarantine and then rehabilitation. So, this is a special win,” the experienced Beijer said.
For China, Suiling Lin had a double-double (12 points, 11 rebounds) but still it fell short. Despite the loss, China however took home their first ever medal at a Worlds and won a lot of hearts among the crowd.
USA women also brought home some cheers settling for the bronze defeating Germany 57-42, thanks to Rose Marie Hollermann’s double – double (14 points, 12 rebounds).
A closing ceremony was held after the medal matches, attended by Chairman of the Championships Thani Juma Berregad, IWBF President Ulf Mehrens, Director of the Championships and Asian Paralympic Committee President Majid Al Usaimi, besides various prominent names in the UAE.
Around 350 players from 20 nations, representing 28 teams (16 men, 12 women) took part in these 12-day World Championships, which witnessed amazing matches highlighted by intensity, grit and determination, at the World Trade Centre Halls that concluded last evening.
USA 67 – Great Britain 66
Bronze Medal match
Iran 72 – Netherlands 54
Netherlands 57 – China 34
Bronze Medal match
Germany 42 – USA 57